A rocking chair is a type of chair with two curved pieces of wood or metal, called rockers, connected to the bottom of its legs. The seat is often made of wood or upholstery but can also be made of other materials. The rockers create a rocking motion that allows the user to produce a gentle swinging motion.
The History of Rocking Chairs
A rocking chair has two curved rockers that allow the person sitting in it to rock back and forth. It is believed that the first rocking chairs were created in the 1700s, but they were not widely used until around 1800. In 1710, The American inventor Benjamin Franklin was officially credited for inventing a rocking chair with a foot-powered fan.
According to some sources, early American farmers and cabinet makers are the actual inventors of rocking chairs. Many well-known people created different versions of the rocking chair, like Peter Cooper, the American industrialist. Inspired by Franklin’s invention, he further added value by designing America’s first steel rocking chair. It had a deluxe appearance and was exhibited in The Crystal Palace in 1851.
Later, in 1860, the first bentwood rocking chair was introduced, made by steaming pieces of wood to curve them to provide a graceful swoop to the design.
It was crafted by Michael Thonet, who was a great German craftsman. His bentwood rocking chair design was appreciated for its lightweight build and attractive shape with a touch of Renaissance-era artistry.
60 years after Benjamin’s invention, the word “rocking chair” was first added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1787. With time, folding chairs became more common than rocking chairs in the US and Europe due to their durability and compact design. They were convenient to carry while traveling and suitable for outdoor activities.
How Did Benjamin Franklin Get the Idea of the Rocking Chair?
Franklin got the idea of the rocking chair when he went to church with his 15-year-old sister. He was not comfortable sitting on the three-legged non-moving stool and thought of something that could keep him swaying back and forth while sitting for a long time.
So, to prevent sitting on stationary furniture in the church, Franklin crafted the first rocking chair to support his back while sitting. He crafted a seat in a style that would fit between two chairs. Its legs were attached with horizontal support on each side that helped the chair move back and forth. Moreover, he added a footrest to his final design.
When he was credited for the invention of the rocking chair, many people argued that the idea already existed. Some believe creative craftsmen built rocking chairs that were used while traveling in trains for religious journeys.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who was behind the invention of the rocking chair or who was given the official credit. The important thing is how beneficial the invention has been and the efforts of the person who popularized the product in a way that it became common.
Although unknown craftsmen may have invented the rocking chair, Benjamin Franklin rejuvenated the idea and the chair became popular across many countries.
Purpose of the Rocking Chair
The main purpose of a rocking chair is for sitting and relaxing. It provides a comfortable place for people to sit and read, watch television, or enjoy some time alone. Rocking chairs are also used in hospitals for patients who need to be rocked back and forth due to illness or injury.
People use rocking chairs for health benefits; for example, they help people who have back pain by relieving pressure on the spine and back muscles. Rocking chairs are often used in the home to provide a soothing motion to help people relax and fall asleep. Some therapists also use motion as part of treatment for people with autism, ADHD, and other disorders that cause difficulty with focus.
The rocking chair is considered an evocative symbol of parenting because it is a place where parents can sit and rock their child to sleep, feed their little ones, or enjoy quality time together. The chair’s motion mimics a rocking cradle, making it an ideal piece of furniture for parents to use when feeding or comforting their babies.
Rockers are also used as a symbol of someone who is old, wise, and relaxed. The rocking chair has a center of gravity, meaning it’s easier to rest on your back than in other chairs, making it ergonomically beneficial.
Types of Rocking Chairs
The structure of a rocking chair is not the only thing that matters. The material used in its construction also significantly affects its durability and comfort.
Wooden rocking chairs are popular because they are durable, easy to maintain, and lightweight. However, they are not very comfortable to sit in for long periods. Some people also prefer metal chairs for easy maintenance, but as they don’t provide any padding, they can be quite uncomfortable to use too.
Today, many types of rocking chairs are available for purchase, including wooden rockers, padded rockers, and reclining rockers. The type of rocking chair is based on its construction. There are three common types of rocking chairs these days:
Traditional Rocking Chair
This chair is made out of wood and has a back and arms. Also, the back can be straight or curved to give more comfort. The arms can be made of wood or metal, depending on the style. This type is often used in nurseries because it is safe for babies.
Upright Rocking Chair
This chair has a straight back and no arms or side supports. It’s usually made of wood with the seat slanted at an angle to comfort the user when sitting upright.
Rocking Recliner Chair
This type of chair is typically more comfortable than a standard recliner because it features an adjustable headrest, footrest, and locking mechanism. It can be used in the home or in a hospital setting. A rocking recliner can help the patient’s recovery by reducing pain and fatigue.
Although the rocker’s design has changed over time to accommodate various needs and styles, the major credit goes to the people who introduced such a beneficial invention 300 years back that it still exists in modern times.